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Planting the Reading Seed
Reading is one of the most basic skills that a child must learn first in order to move forward. It is important and imperative for parents and for teachers to expose kids to books and other reading materials at an early age as well as to model the act of reading. It begins with the telling and reading of stories to these children, and then briefly discussing some parts of the stories and connecting them to more concrete things in the children's lives. That bedtime story may appear a mere method to put kids to sleep, but it is very helpful in planting those "reading seeds" early on. As a child grows up, it is good to give him plenty of opportunities to go through picture books and later on to read simple and common words found not only in books, but also in signs found around the house or in the streets. Parents should be aware of the teachable moments when they are with their children--- such as reading a menu with their children while pointing to the words when they are in a restaurant, or going through their shopping list in the supermarket. It is also good for them to leave notes for their kids once in a while, like a simple "See you later" or "I love you" or "Sleep early".
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Watering the Reading Plant
When a child is of school age already, then the teachers and parents must work together to ensure that the reading seed planted earlier continues to grow. This is especially important when a child reaches the first grade, for this is the beginning of a greater need for good reading skills in order to learn as they progress through the different grade levels. This is when the foundation set earlier should be followed up intently. Hence it is essential to develop not only phonics, but to introduce basic reading comprehension skills at this level--- identifying and describing the character and setting of a story, distinguishing reality from fantasy, determining the main idea of a text, comparing and contrasting, making inferences, drawing conclusions, and so on.
Reading comprehensions tests for first grade should assess skills such as the ones already mentioned, through the use of stories and other selections that the kids can easily relate to. Make sure to build first on their prior knowledge and to give an activity that connects this to the selection, so as to prepare them for it. Next, it would be better to have them read aloud or silently the selection by chunks while discussing important points in between, asking questions, and clarifying details. You may even choose to have a more engaging and interactive approach for this such as asking them to draw with a partner what the character was described to be wearing, or to share with a group if they would like to visit such a setting. Afterwards, when you have finished reading the selection with them, facilitate fun follow-up activities which can serve as your reading comprehension tests already. Remember that these tests need not be paper-and-pen assessments all the time. You can even set up learning stations!
Some reading comprehension tests/activities that the children can do:
- Draw the character and the setting. Write a sentence to describe each. (identifying/describing character and setting)
- Arrange in order strips of paper that contain events from the story. (sequencing of events)
- Complete a venn diagram with some given similarities and differences. (comparing and contrasting)
- Draw the character to show how he felt during a certain event in the story. (making inferences)
- Group pictures that show reality and fantasy related to or taken from the selection. (classifying, distinguishing reality from fantasy)
- Make a comic strip of the story. (understanding/describing the plot)
- Add one more box to the comic strip to show what you think happens after the ending. (predicting outcomes)
- Retell the story/selection in your own words. (understanding/describing the plot)
- Act out the problem and solution in the story. (identifying/describing the problem and solution)
- Fill up the thought balloon of an illustration of a character during a certain part of the story. (making inferences)
- Answer questions based on illustrations. (drawing conclusions)
- Pick a picture that shows one part of the selection, then work with a group to form a choo-choo train to show the order of events. Take turns explaining about the picture. (sequencing of events)
- Write a wh- question on a piece of paper. Go around pairing up with different students to ask questions to each other and exchange papers. (noting details)
- Create an advertisement, poster, brochure, or song that focuses on one part or element of the selection (different skills)
- Write or tell what the selection is about. Then underline parts of the selection that helped identify what it is about. You may also fill up a concept web based on these. (identifying the main idea and supporting details
Keep in mind that these kids are just discovering reading, and may get turned off when tests and activities put too much pressure on them or cause a lot of anxiety. Include several pictures and diagrams to help them understand better. Also use simple, short, and age-appropriate sentences in your tests. Always provide fun activities as reinforcement or enrichment. In this way, kids will be looking forward to the reading comprehension tests for first grade instead of dreading them. In this way, they will be learning more and retaining more.